Tronicbox takes us back to the 1980s

Recently I stumbled across a YouTube channel that has taken remixing to a whole new level.

TRONICBOX picks all your favourite tunes from the present day, or very recent past, and reworks them into nostalgic Eighties hits, and quite frankly, they’re superb.

My first encounter with TRONICBOX, who hails from Canada and describes himself — or herself, who knows? — as “a musician, gamer, and software developer from Saskatchewan Canada”, was when a version of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know popped up on one of my many online feeds. Take a listen.

Instantly it threw me back to my youth. Everything about it made me smile, from the hilarious cover shot to the production itself, replete with punchy disco drum sounds, the most kitsch electric piano you can imagine and the type of pulsing electro bassline every Eighties kid bounced to back in the day. Add to that wailing guitar solos you might hear in a Rocky training montage, and what you’ve got is a pretty perfect work of art.

The original — a duet with Kimbra — was, of course, a massive hit in its own right, and the genius of this remix wasn’t lost on Kimbra herself when she posted this to her Facebook page.

 

When I heard TRONICBOX’s equally magnificent rejig of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, I had to share this stuff with the world. This time, it’s not just the tune that will give you happy little goosebumps, but the video as well. Having been a fitness instructor in my deep, dark past, I could relate even more. It’s also a lot rockier, which I like. This is Europe meets early Bon Jovi with a bit of Journey tossed in for good measure. Impossibly good.

The remixes keep coming, which is good news. Katy Perry has been morphed into a Jane Fonda for her remix, while her hit Firework is transformed into a disco funk number Chaka Khan would have been proud to perform in her heyday.

Whoever TRONICBOX is, I hope he/she sees this. Please say hi, and keep us posted on what’s coming next because so far, I’m blown away by your skills. Thank you, from the bottom of my nostalgic heart. This stuff is just too good to be true.

Here’s a cheesy version of Justin Bieber’s Baby to sign off. The sax solo is magnificent! And that pic!! 🤣

Rooting for London Grammar

Time flies when you’re listening to music. Three and a half years ago now, we posted a short piece about an obscure little band emerging out of the UK called London Grammar. Back then we were blown away by the vocals of Hannah Reid, and in the years since, that reaction has only strengthened.

Then along comes the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, and this young lady melts our brains again with a performance so intense and beautiful, there are no words to describe it. Just listen to this live version of the band’s newest track, Rooting For You, and try not to get goosebumps — or even weep a little.

The studio version of this track doesn’t feature to vocal solo you see in this clip, which dilutes its effect somewhat. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to know the band has lost none of its creativity in the years since releasing its last recordings in 2013.

Hands up if you’re looking forward to more of this!! We certainly are.

Mogwai returns with beautiful new single

Ether is the new single from Mogwai and has been shared by the Scottish post-rockers this week. You can check it out here.

The track is part of the band’s upcoming new album Atomic, which is to be released on 1 April. It’s a slight departure from the full noise post-rock we’re used to from these guys, featuring horns and a lot of other orchestral instrumentation. But hear it out until the end, because you’ll get that face reforming impact you’re waiting for.

OK Go sets the video clip bar even higher

OK Go is an American band arguably known more for its music videos than its music, and the group’s latest effort on the video clip front will do nothing to change that.

The single Upside Down And Inside Out inspired the guys to physically act out the tune’s title by taking parabolic flights to produce weightlessness. Visually, it’s pretty amazing. Watch it here.

There are times when the band members don’t look entirely comfortable, but that’s understandable when you realise what’s involved in parabolic flight — essentially climbing steeply before diving towards the earth at breakneck speeds. When astronauts trained in this way, they nicknamed  the plane the Vomit Comet.

OK Go has been spending the past week on YouTube teasing the clip, but chose to debut it in full on Facebook, for whatever reasons. With a little more than 1 million views per hour roughly since it was posted (10.2 million at time of writing), that seems to have been a sound decision.

But the question remains: is OK Go a music band, or is it a music-video band? It doesn’t really matter, and it’s become a huge success by, in my view, being the latter. But why have no other artists followed its example?

Maybe it’s because they want people to remember them for their music, and not their videos.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the music video was the chief way artists sold their songs. Michael Jackson’s clip for Thriller was a watershed moment, and that spawned a plethora of other elaborately choreographed clips from his own siblings, and Paula Abdul made her career by conceptualising most of them. Peter Gabriel’s video for Sledgehammer was similarly critically acclaimed, but more recently, such creativity in the music video space is harder to find.

Beyonce’s latest Formation clip has been equally praised and criticised for its political rhetoric,  but as a complex piece of visual art, it hardly compares to what OK Go has been capable of over the years. And she’s of course not the first to bring politics into her videos.

The question any band creating a video clip has to ask itself, you’d have to assume, is what am I making this for? Is it to sell the record, or is it to rack up views and rake in advertising revenue? Is it to promote my band so people come and see us play live? Or, is it just for fun?

RJ Mitte stars in emotional Nothing But Thieves clip

It’s a tear-jerking song, and now Nothing But Thieves had added an equally emotional clip to accompany If I Get High, starring Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte.

Watch it here.

Mitte’s part in the clip is not dissimilar to that of the one he played in Breaking Bad as Walter Jr, opposite the magnificent Bryan Cranston as his father, Walter White. It’s a father/son fracture piece, but it should be noted the father in the Nothing But Thieves clip seems a lot less loving than Mr White, even if he isn’t dealing meth.

If I Get High is the latest single of Nothing But Thieves’ self-titled debut album. If you haven’t bought it yet, go fetch your wallet. It’s one of the best records you’ll ever own.

Massive Attack emerges from the darkness with an epic EP

It’s been five long years since we heard anything from Massive Attack, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. A new four-track EP, Ritual Spirit, arrived this week, featuring collaborations with Tricky, Young Fathers, Roots Manuva, and Azekel.

Tricky’s track, Take It There, turned up on YouTube, a track produced by one half of the Bristol duo, 3D (aka Robert Del Naja), and a clip directed by Japanese Hiro Murai, whom Australian music lovers might remember for his work creating Chet Faker’s clip for Gold, the one featuring a trio of roller-skating babes and faker himself in a car wreck, which they nonchalantly roll past.

Here’s the Massive Attack clip, and it’s quite mesmerising, as is often the case with Murai’s work.

Musically, Take It There features all the hallmarks of classic Massive Attack — hypnotic beats, dark lyrics delivered via menacing whispers — but the guitar and piano work is also superb. It’s more reminiscent of the collection of tunes on Mezzanine than those on Protection, which was the last album Tricky featured on. The tension is high, and the quality exactly what you’d expect.

As for the other tracks, again they’re undeniably the creations of Massive Attack.  Dead Editors, featuring Roots Manuva, is super industrial, very blippy in parts, while title track Ritual Spirit really ramps up the drama. Azekel’s vocal work is excellent, and wow, that bass line.

Voodoo In My Blood, which features Scottish hip-hoppers Young Fathers, is perhaps the weirdest track of this quartet of tunes, but that’s not to say it still isn’t magnificent, particularly towards its final stanzas.

You can listen to Ritual Spirit in its entirety right here.

It’s great to hear these guys making wondrous noises again. If only we had an album’s worth of material to plug into, though. Still no news on that possibility as far I can tell.

Formidable new tune carries an important message

A lot of new music is starting to pop up from some artists I love. Some of it I’m excited about, some of it not so much, but some of it is making me wet my pants and smile more broadly thank I thought possible.

When an email from The Joy Formidable dropped in my inbox this week declaring the band had uploaded a new track, I clicked without hesitation. This is where I ended up.

Just for an extra kick, check out the version posted on SoundCloud, because it has slightly bigger balls.

There have been some great rock bands to come out of Wales in the past — Stereophonics always got a good run on my sound system, and of course there is Feeder, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and many other — but I always feel The Joy Formidable is a little underrated among not only Welsh bands, but British bands.

I guess it’s a relatively new group in terms of a band’s lifespan, but this this trio is already responsible for one of my favourite alt-rock songs of all time — the magnificent Whirring. If you haven’t heard it, please seek it out. You won’t regret it.

The Last Thing On My Mind, the first taste of The Joy Formidable’s new album Hitch, is a real bopper, and I’m sure you noticed the video is slightly saucy. Well, that’s all part of the message it carries — an important message in the context of the society we currently live in.

Lead singer Ritzy Bryan explains.

The Last Thing on My Mind was written and recorded in the summer of 2014 at our North Walian studio the Red Brick, just outside of Mold in Clwyd. It has the feel and sentiment of a lot of the tracks from our new album, it talks about feeling alive, being free and this track in particular touches upon sexual liberation; specifically about a woman’s carnal imagination.”

She continues, and this is where it gets good.

“We’re big on making our own music videos, so last month we started collecting footage and finishing the treatment to this song. The video follows a voyeuristic heterosexual female gaze (like my own) watching men in all forms, free, relaxed, sexy and objectified . It’s beautiful, provocative, occasionally pervy , sometimes just admiring the prowess of Hendrix and his guitar or Iggy’s gorgeous lack of inhibitions.

“The intent behind this video was formed as a group, with both my male band members. I think that’s important to mention because what fuelled this treatment was something that we’d all been feeling; that there just isn’t enough diversity in music videos when it comes to sexual representation.

“The male gaze is well represented, we see plenty of female nudity, statistically more than men, we see men in positions of power with scantily clad women, and we see female protagonists mirroring that power dynamic with overt sexual aggression.

“This obsession with who is sexually in control is negative for both sexes. The implication that all men are aggressive and that women need to compete in the same way isn’t the road to equality.
In music videos what we don’t see very often is men and women equal in their nudity and sensual without a power struggle.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been reading a lot about equality in all sorts of fields recently, and Ritzy and the gang have nailed the issue with it here.

She also reveals that finding footage of males in such objectified situations wasn’t easy. Funny that. All the men are too busy objectifying women to have time to be objectified themselves.

“The point here is, when the media representation is imbalanced,if we’re mostly seeing women sexualised or objectified, from a male perspective or otherwise, it’s limited, it’s damaging and frankly; it’s boring too,” she adds

“I’d like to see even more diversity please, in music videos and the way that sex is represented in general. Censorship is changing with the Internet and the way that music videos are reaching people, we’re socially becoming more accustomed to explicit material. If that’s what society has decided let’s see more bulges, more condoms, labia, different body types, pubic hair, even the long vilified erection is fine by me , everything presented equally with less taboo so that diversity is accepted.”

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this sentiment. Almost as much as I love the new track.

Hitch, which is The Joy Formidable’s third album, is set for release on 26 March.

Nothing But Thieves release beautiful clip of Lover, Please Stay

This is stunning. You have been warned.

Nothing But Thieves has been one of my favourite bands for more than a year now, and I was shattered to hear their planned tour to Australia was cancelled this week as a result of the collapse of Soundwave Festival, of which they were to be a part. I had tickets to their sideshow, but no festival means no sideshows. Bummer.

They’ve stated they’ll try to get out here sometime later in 2016. I just hope their popularity hasn’t soared still further and they still book the small venue they were set to play at in Sydney — Oxford Arts Factory. Seeing them in such an intimate setting would be amazing, as this clip proves.

Madonna sings John Lennon’s Imagine on the streets of Paris

In between playing sold out shows in Paris, Madonna took time out to hit the streets to lead a little busk of John Lennon’s Imagine.

It’s been less than a month since the city was hit by terror attacks, with many people dying while enjoying music at the Bataclan Music Hall, where Madge’s fellow American musicians Eagles Of Death Metal were playing a show.

The message here, of course, is no amount of terror will ever break the resolve of most right-thinking people to live in peace and harmony. There is arguably no better piece of music than Lennon’s Imagine to communicate that, and this is all as we also remembered it was 35 years ago this week the Beatles legend was shot dead in the streets of New York.